Category Archives: Gratitude

A post for a WOW friend: The gift of being chosen

Sand castle
A sand castle on Maryanne’s favourite beach: Anna Maria Island

The first time I saw my friend Maryanne, she and her eighteen-month-old son were building houses out of sand in the shade of a play structure in our neighbourhood park. Seated side by side, they packed sand into plastic containers and constructed houses of all shapes and sizes.

I played with my own eighteen-month-old daughter nearby and eavesdropped on their conversation.

“What kind of house do you want to build next?” she asked.

“A bungalow,” her son said.

WOW. What toddler knows the word bungalow? And who was this Wonder Of Women with him?

Over the twenty-three years of our friendship (both those children are now almost twenty-five), I have said WOW about Maryanne many times. She has other exceptional qualities besides an advanced vocabulary and a knack for creative story building.

She celebrated her 60th birthday on the weekend and the occasion caused me to reflect on her WOW qualities.

  • GENEROSITY – I have been at her house to see her open her door wide to people in need. No matter if an arrival is unannounced or if it means re-evaluating food supplies or sleeping arrangements, she accommodates with grace and dignity. It is a gift rarer than the finest diamonds.
  • SELF-WITNESS – She has the ability to rise above herself, look down and sort life out from a higher perspective. This skill has led her to success in business and helped her to overcome tragic loss.
  • INTUITION – She seems to reach through the veil of the universe. She just knows things. Sometimes I have to do a double-take after hearing her insights.
  • LAUGHTER – She is fun. We laugh together a lot.

Her generosity means that saying “No” does not come naturally, but her self-witness is telling her that sometimes that’s exactly what she needs to start saying. She’s learning to listen to her intuition and to choose what serves her and what does not. Which activities, causes or people should she say no to because they drain her without ever giving back? Which activities, causes or people energize her or bring her laughter?

Maryanne and I during a night of smiles and laughter

Maryanne is ever-evolving and choosing how to spend her time and with whom to spend that time. Like Pokemon’s Pikachu saying “I choose you!”

I will be sixty in a few years too, so I’m also am developing the steely inner resolve that comes with the wisdom of age. I am more discerning about how I spend my days, and with whom. I am drawing firm boundaries around demands on my time. One thing I know: Time spent with Maryanne is time well spent. I choose her!

She inspires me to be a better person. I’m not Maryanne’s best friend, but I aim to be the best friend for her in certain circumstances. I hope I refill her well in some way and bring her laughter.

On her 60th birthday I asked myself, “What gift could I give to such a WOW person?” The only thing I could think of was to let her know this:

I appreciate the gift of being chosen.

Birthday cake with Limited 1959 Edition topper
A “limited edition” cake for a “limited edition” person

Birding: The uncommon but fantastic

I follow a blog written by a bird/nature enthusiast who lives in my city of Ottawa, Canada. It’s called The Pathless Wood and it is interesting.

I walk in the same wooded areas that she writes about, and I’m ashamed to say that I don’t notice even a quarter of the highlights she brings to the attention of her readers.

She wrote about an olive-sided flycatcher, for instance, a bird she described as “uncommon but fantastic.”

I didn’t even know such a bird existed, and I thought, “What if I was in the right place at the right time, and an olive-sided flycatcher alighted on a branch next to me? I wouldn’t appreciate it at all. I wouldn’t know that it was uncommon but fantastic!”

I experienced that uncomfortable feeling of being blind to something important, like when a person meets a celebrity but doesn’t recognize them, and afterwards someone says, “You know who that was, right?”

On my nature walks I could be rubbing shoulders with the bird equivalent of Tom Hanks or Helen Mirren and not even know it.

I’m not sure there’s a resolution to my problem. I have enough going on in my life (too much), so I can’t add birding to the list. I will keep reading and learning though, in the hope that in future more uncommon but fantastic things will get the appreciation they deserve.

Two birds on a post. "We may be common, but we're still fantastic." "Oh, yeah. She took our picture, didn't she?"

New and beautiful out of old and broken

Some days I feel ancient.

Some days it feels like so much of my life, so many people and events, lie on the path behind me, how much more can be ahead?

On those days, it’s helpful to stumble upon trees like these growing together on my friend’s property near Lake Huron.

A twig sprouting out of the sawed-off portion of a cedar trunk

A sprout of a completely different kind of tree is growing through the trunk of the sawed-off trunk of an old tree.

I searched from all sides and from high and low angles, and I could not find the root system for the younger twig. It is below ground, an integral part of the roots of the cedar.

The largest trunk on the original cedar was cut off—a loss that must have felt like the end. But no! Something unexpected was hiding there all along, intertwined with the roots, waiting to spring to life.

Bless that which you want: Vacation

Four people making the letters of the world love with their bodies.

According to the ancient Polynesian wisdom of Ka Huna, shamans of Hawaii use the power of words and mind to build self-esteem to heal the self, others and situations.

The wisdom says: Bless that which you want.

If we are jealous of others who received something we desire, or if we declare ourselves unworthy of receiving it, that drives away the object of our desire.

It’s impossible to bless something and be negative at the same time.

Blessings expand positive and creative energy and reflect it back to us. Blessings increase the good in our lives.

I’m taking a short vacation. I bless the mental break, the time for reading, the visits with family and friends, the swimming and the sunshine. I bless that when I return I will be rejuvenated.  

What do you want? Take some time to bless it.

Two Muskoka chairs facing each other on a lake-side dock.

July 4, Zimmerman, finishing, and weeds

On this eve of July 4, I could write about how much I love America. What a beautiful, amazing country it isand how I’m worried about it.

In the past, when I travelled internationally the first question people asked when they heard my accent was: Are you American? Now, it is: Are you Canadian? Best not to lead with “America,” I’m told, because people who aren’t American get too offended.

Internationally, things are not great, America. Just sayin’. But I’m pulling for ya!

Or, I could write about how my son graduated from university and how proud of him I am. And how convocation ceremonies are the most joyful, mind-numbing experiences we humans have ever come up with. At my son’s convocation we celebrated when he kneeled to be hooded, and when we reached the final name in the looooooooooooooong list. Zimmerman! Yay!

I could also write about how I’ve finished a first draft of a novel after writing for a really, really, really (really) long time. I had started to wonder if I would ever finish. I have. Good for me.

Exploding fireworks

But that’s really all I have to say about all of those things. But because I’ve been finishing my first draft, travelling to my son’s grad, and celebrating Canada Day, I haven’t had any time to weed my garden.

Weeding . . . that’s a good topic. I recommend you read about it on Tuesdays with Laurie: Gardening.

An invitation to ponder the people, places, things, events, and opportunities in your life that are not positive, uplifting, constructive, or healing, or that don’t support the best version of you. I’ll do that while I’m in my garden pulling out actual weeds.

Weed-filled flowerbed

The beauty of making do

We replaced kitchen cupboards at our cottage on the weekend.

The old ones had been there for decades—probably since the 1950s when my father-in-law bought the place. They were functional, but not perfectly so. The drawers, without sliders, squeaked closed, wood against wood. One cupboard door was hung crooked and sprang open again if not closed with authority.

I was excited to replace the old cupboards with units that had proper shelving and drawers the slid home easily with a quiet thunk at the end.

And then we took the old ones apart.

Those gliders on the wooden drawers? Hockey sticks. (Canadian stereotype alert!)

The side panels were pieces of used decorative paneling (that I suspect he picked up for free from a discard pile somewhere). Every screw used to cobble the whole thing together was different. He’d obviously empty every jar of used screws in his work shed.

We bowed down to the skillful frugality of my father-in-law, the King of Making Do. What we found behind the smooth white front was a masterpiece of creative re-purposing that gave new meaning to the term “custom kitchen.”

He was teenager during the Great Depression and those years of poverty marked him. He lived Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Re-purpose, Recycle before it became an environmental mantra.

It was marvelous. And so beautiful.

Syd, if you’re out there somewhere, I hope you know that I am bowing down to your work and the beauty of making do.

Bank of lower kitchen cabinets
The new look: Functional yes, but not NEARLY as interesting.

The beauty of ew

A model tall ship covered in dust

I attended an afternoon event held at a venue usually reserved for nighttime activities. As I stood listening to speeches, I looked up at this tall ship on a high shelf, lit by a combination of daylight and interior lighting that would not normally be on when customers were in the establishment.

I was struck by both the beauty and the ew factor. In fact, the beauty is made possible because of the ew factor.

Without the dust on the delicate strands of rope on the foundering ship the effect of the light would be less striking.

Something that needed cleaning up had been hidden and ignored. Light made things clear, and somehow beautiful.

The idea helps me this week. The lesson “sailed to me” when needed, as they so often do. I hope it helps you too.